the importance of invitation: the Golden Ticket

But this is by no means the most exciting thing that will happen on the day of your visit. I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvelous and more fantastic for you and for all my beloved Golden Ticket holders–mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish, and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine that such things could happen to you! Just wait and see! And now, here are your instructions . . .

Imprint on the Golden Ticket acquired by Charlie Bucket,
from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Something we’ve wrestled with a bit in planning our conference has been the importance of invitation. On one hand, creating a group via some kind of personal invitation and hand selection gives the meeting the kind of attention it deserves. We’ve always thought that the group we want to assemble should be polite but active, brave but good listeners, varied but with intent purpose. On the other hand, we have come from a moral position that equity and welcomeness to all is imperative, whether it’s a third grader who lives on the wrong side of the street to a person whose race doesn’t give them the same privilege that society grants my whiteness. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable using the invitation model for the conference, especially because I wonder if there are people we’re missing.

What I hadn’t ever anticipated, but our research is starting to draw out, is a certain Golden Ticket phenomenon. When we give feedback to our participants’ first proposals, we give them a certain gift, paying attention to and giving care towards the things that they care about, and we help them shape the final work into something that will benefit them the most. I’m not sure that it is exactly an “in your wildest dreams” kind of gift, but it is mysterious and unexpected. What seems to result is a sense that, since these proposals have been given a golden wrapper kind of treatment, there is a need to really pay attention to what follows the preface, “here are your instructions.” People talk about reading everyone else’s work, preparing themselves for the interaction because of the attention they were given. I don’t think we’d ever really anticipated this, and there’s still good odds that this isn’t really the important part of Crossroads. Yet, I think it’s a big part of it. Paying careful attention to details and giving everyone something to look forward to seems to be just the right color of wrapper.

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